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Ernest Shonekan: Statesman Or Traitor? By Ozodinukwe Okenwa

January 13, 2022

Since the late Bashorun Abiola hailed from Abeokuta like Shonekan critics had argued then that the military gang led by Babangida used him to truncate the Abiola presidency.

Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan (GCFR) died recently in Lagos at a ripe age of 85. As an Octogenarian it must be said here that he kept a date with the ultimate leveller at an age few Nigerians could only aspire to attain in their lifetime. With the average life expectancy in the country below 50 years it is a glorious thing to belong to the Octogenarian or Nonagenarian club. Shonekan lived a worthy life as a lawyer, politician and elder statesman. The 'Abese of Egbaland' was a former Chairman of the famous United Africa Company of Nigeria (UAC), a British colonial commercial heritage.

But above everything else including his modest achievements in public service he would be remembered more for his treacherous role in the illegal contraption named Interim National Government (ING) hurriedly cobbled together by the crafty departing military despot, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (IBB).


Following the national uproar that greeted the criminal annulment of the ill-fated June 12, 1993 presidential election, won convincingly by the late Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the then dictator, Gen. Babangida, was under intense international and local pressure to quit the scene. As chaos and anarchy prevailed IBB decided to 'step aside' paving the way for the installation of the ING later declared as illegal by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Shonekan was the so-called Interim Head of the Nigerian Government between August 26 and November 17, 1993, when he was ousted in a palace coup led by late General Sani Abacha. For the three uneasy months he presided over our national affairs the late Gen. Abacha was seen generally as the 'Khalifa' waiting patiently like a vulture to strike and put an abrupt end to the Babangida-made illegitimate contraption.

Since the late Bashorun Abiola hailed from Abeokuta like Shonekan critics had argued then that the military gang led by Babangida used him to truncate the Abiola presidency. Besides, Abacha was left out as Defense Chief to accomplish a deadly mission aimed at supplanting democracy and installing another Jackboot to continue the pillaging and destruction of the nation.

By the time Gen. Abacha ate his last apple collapsing on the lapse of an Indian prostitute in Aso Rock Nigeria had been looted dry. And the blood of innocent victims of Abacha's satanic despotism was flowing in every region of the country except in the north.

The late maximum ruler from Kano believed in the Bismarckian scorched-earth policy of blood and iron as the the only way of whipping the opposition into line and settling issues.

The June 12 presidential poll in Nigeria featuring the late Bashorun Abiola and the equally late Alhaji Bashir Tofa was a democratic watershed in the annals of our national history. But Generals Babangida and Abacha conspired to deprive Nigerians of the promised 'Hope-93'. They 'killed' hope, the message and the messenger!

If the late Abiola were allowed to assume his popular mandate one still wonders where Nigeria would have been by now. No matter his weaknesses Abiola had a whole lot of strenght the martial bad boys from the north could never boast of. He was charismatic, munificient, industrious and patriotic. Babangida and Abacha cannot boast of any of these qualities.

Since 1999 when the military led by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar handed over power to yet another Egba man, Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria's democratic trajectory remains a huge disappointing tale for another day. Obasanjo tried his very best but failed to position or reposition Nigeria where she ought to be in the comity of nations.

And Baba OBJ's extra-constitutional third term gambit eroded every positive achievement he was associated with. Besides, out of hundreds of competent hands available Obasanjo decided single-handedly to 'coronate' the late Musa Yar'Adua President against the groundswell of public opinion to the contrary given the late Katsina man's ill-health record.

June 12 had many heroes and heroines. But it had in equal measure many villains and betrayers. Heroes like the late MKO Abiola and heroines like his assassinated beautiful wife, Kudirat.

Villains like Amb. Babagana Kingibe (now a member of the cabal jeopardising national unity and social cohesion), the late Mohammad Saleh, the late Uche Chukwumerije, Tom Ikimi, Arthur Nzeribe, Justice Bassey Ikpeme etc. And betrayers and traitors like the late Shonekan and Olusegun Obasanjo.

Gen. Babangida annulled the freest and fairest presidential poll in Nigeria citing nebulous reasons of national security and electoral fraud. Yet his regime ran Nigeria aground fumbling and wobbling from one bogus transition scheme to another. Billions of Naira was wasted as Nigerians were treated to one sham after another.

The guileful General and his enablers like the late Abacha made sure democracy never succeeded. But democracy would continue to outlive them, one by one!

Indeed, democracy has survived since 1999 even if much is still left undone or unaccomplished. Presently under Buharism Nigeria has been sent backwards to the dark days of the Jackboot with a retired coup-plotting General in command. The abuse of the hard-won democracy in our nation by President Buhari and his Fulani gang must be deprecated. It is not what many sacrificed their lives for!

As Chief Shonekan goes forth home to meet his Maker leaving Nigeria at the mercy of the Buharian unfulfilled APC electoral promises we hope to get it right next year during the next electoral cycle. Otherwise, our nation may be exposed to disintegration.

In the final analysis we hold that the late Chief Ernest Shonekan was more of a traitor than a statesman. Nevertheless, we grieve for him!

The grim reaper has a way of reminding each and everyone of us, the living, of the ultimate question in the journey of life: who is next?

Fare thee well, the 'Abese of Egbaland'!

SOC Okenwa
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